Have you ever thought of pairing pumpkin with strawberry? How about soy sauce with cranberry or broccoli with milk chocolate? Would you substitute Gruyère and coconut for butter? A Belgian Web site suggests all of these intriguing combinations and more...
The site, called FoodPairing, offers two search options: ingredient pairings ("What fits well with...") and substitutions ("What can replace..."). Not all of the results are unusual; some are common pairings, like tomato and olive oil, but many are indeed surprising, inspiring, or seemingly disgusting. Yet all of them are backed by scientific research. The database is the result of flavor analyses conducted by a group of food scientists led by Bernard Lahousse. Although their research is aimed at the food industry, the site is accessible to anyone.
FoodPairing doesn't include every ingredient one might think of searching. Sometimes the scope seems strangely narrow or lacking, and occasionally specific brands and products pop up, like Jules Destrooper Almond Thins (which one can apparently enjoy with cold smoked salmon, grilled beef, and mozzarella). Still, it's a fun site to explore and presumably the database will grow as they analyze more products.
While we're on the subject of unusual food combinations or substitutions, do you have any of your own to share? Ingredients that sound strange but really work together, personal favorites that make other people shudder...?